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December 5, 2017

I recently turned a troubling thought – “I don’t know what to do next”-  into an energizing one – “Any step I take is in the right direction, I am always on my right path”.

This little thought switch turned doubt into action. No longer paralyzed by not knowing whether to work on my art, my business, client work, instagram, Skillshare classes, product lines, creative coaching, etc., I started seeing myself get. shit. done.

Email inbox no longer overflowing, notecards I’ve been meaning to send to my friends for months finally happily on their way to their mailboxes. But I was quick to notice that while I was finally getting things done, I was mostly getting the little things done. Important sure, but not the big things. Not the scary, I-feel-naked-in-front-of-my-dream, big things.

And herein lies all that I want to share with you today: getting the big things done. I watched a Skillshare class by Michael Karnjanaprakorn, founder of Skillshare, regarding productivity. The class isn’t very long, but one part really stood out to me. Michael describes how he organizes all those various things we find on our to-do lists, from grocery shopping to starting your next book, and that’s by assigning value to them. Specifically, monetary value.

What I like about this approach is it gets us away from constantly putting out fires in our life (email this person! pay these bills!) and closer to carving out time to actually get the important stuff done. Here’s how it works:

1) Make a brain-dump to-do list. This isn’t a one time thing, but an ongoing list that everything gets added to as it comes up. Everything. I use Wunderlist to quickly get it out.

2) Make 4 buckets labeled $10/hr, $100/hr, $1,000/hr, $10,000/hr (or, whatever amounts make sense to you)

3) Start moving your to do items into the bucket they should be in based on HOW IMPORTANT the task is to you and your goals. For instance, packing for a trip is important because you need to make sure you’re ready to go and have everything you need, but is it more important than tackling your next big creative idea? Probably not. Packing, while more urgent, is a $10/hr gig, whereas your next creative idea is $1,000/hr or higher.

4) When you go to schedule your day, block off times to work on your $10,000/hr tasks, and so on and so forth, starting by scheduling the big ones first. I use Google calendar and everyday my day starts with an hour for email and reviewing my todo lists (basically, $10/hr work, to ease into the day). But then I have this block from 10-3:30 of ‘work time’, and this is where I’m sure to drag at least a few things from my bigger bins to my calendar. It’s important, too, to make sure your bigger items aren’t necessarily huge beasts to tackle, but a small actionable next step in a grander scheme. For instance, a goal of mine right now is to redo my website. This is really important to me and my goals, so it’s part of my $10,000/hr group. However, I don’t simply put “redo website” in that bucket because it’s too vague and scary. Instead, I have the task “write website copy starting with bio”.

Also, tailor the times you work on your biggest things to when you know you’re most in the zone. For some people this is early in the morning or late at night. Whatever is best for you. If you’re not sure, just start with something and adjust as necessary.

5) Stick to your schedule! If you know that later in the day you’ve allotted an hour and a half to those small things, you can focus on the bigger and more important tasks at hand, and actually, you know, get the stuff you want done, done!

The coolest thing? You go from being busy, which can be falsely comforting, to productive, which is….I mean guys. It’s effing great.

Hope this little trick helps you out as much as it’s been helping me.


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  1. Riana Nelson says:

    Dylan! This is so valuable and informative and BRILLIANT! I often use the “buckets” analogy to try to make sense of the different hats I wear (“calligraphy” bucket, “touring management” bucket, etc) but have never assigned lofty or specific monetary value to each as a way to better categorize them OR get more jazzed to complete the little tasks that make up the big ones. I’m excited to revise my thinking and goals and planning this way. Thank you!!!

    • Dylan says:

      Right?! So many times I’ve tried to setup my to-do lists in the way you mentioned: by project, by area of my life, etc., and it just never worked. Now it doesn’t matter if all the like-items are together, because I know a) they’re on my list somewhere and b) it’ll all get done. Even the big things. So glad you found it valuable, too!

  2. Mel says:

    Love this, and just in time for the new year goal overload! I love the idea that whatever I do will help me get closer to my larger goal—I’m often paralyzed about deciding what various thing to work on as well.

    • Dylan says:

      It really is so freeing right! I found that sometimes just alleviating the pressure of having to make a decision makes it so that I can finally just chose something and go for it. You can always change course down the line, but you can’t if you never start!

  3. Watched his class last night. I already do the time blocking in a similar way, but love the idea of listing tasks by value. I am writing it on a paper in reverse order, though. $10,000 activities; then $1,000; then 100; then $10. I feel like this will help me resist the temptation to focus on $10 activities first.

  4. Mady says:

    This is so great! Love this post so much! I have had issues with productivity lately and this helps so much!

    • Dylan says:

      I’m glad to hear it, Mady! I think sometimes we feel like we don’t have a say in what’s important, but we totally do, and this view helps keep that value in perspective.